To Tulsa Then I Came

To Tulsa then I came in the middle of an August heatwave,

driving a car without air-conditioning in temperatures well

over a hundred, traveling the turnpike up from Muscogee,

through a lot of nothing, to connect with the expressway

from Broken Arrow, exiting at Fifteenth and Delaware,

for my first glimpse of the city on the way to TU

to start my doctoral studies after making the stressful decision.

Sweaty I was and exhausted, and the trees all looked strange,

when I arrived without a plan for where to sleep,

agreed to a lease on the first crappy apartment I saw,

and spent the night at a motel on Admiral, the surroundings of which

did not impress me aesthetically or in terms of safety.

So much about the city has changed now, the university

hardly recognizable, the landscape of the Delaware intersection

so much changed, the arts district thriving in once-dead downtown,

even the grocery-store chains all replaced.

But still it remains a place with a history: the road, the music,

the deco facades that oil money and depression labor built,

the infamous riot that the textbooks somehow never mentioned.

And yet, curiously, also a history without a place—

not really located South, or West, or Midwest either,

but in a city unlike the rest of Oklahoma,

itself dissimilar to pretty much anywhere else on earth.

To Tulsa I came and went and came and went and came;

and longer have I stayed than ever I could have imagined

 

Copyright 2017

T. Allen Culpepper

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